Maggie Alarcón

Posts Tagged ‘Cuban Americans’

Former U.S. diplomat Patrick Ryan: Time to drop Cuba from terror list

In Alan Gross, Cuba, Politics, US on April 30, 2013 at 1:16 pm



By Former U.S. diplomat Patrick Ryan


From The Hill

As a former U.S. diplomat who authored the 2007-09 Country Reports on Terrorism for Nigeria and visited Cuba many times on official business, I believe keeping Cuba on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism is absurd and highly political, particularly given its glaring omissions. 

Where is North Korea, which has conducted small-scale attacks against the South over the past several years — and recently threatened a nuclear first strike against the United States? Despite the fact that Cuba maintains a capable espionage network, no credible intelligence sources claim it is currently a security threat to us. Cuba’s listing is about Florida electoral politics. 

A small minority of Cuban-American politicians has been dictating U.S. foreign policy toward one of our most geographically proximate neighbors for too long — and using the highly questionable terrorist listing to justify continuation of the Cold War-era embargo. 

Ironically, these members of Congress support Cubans’ ability freedom to travel to the United States but not Americans’ freedom to travel to Cuba, and use the terrorist justification for this. If we truly want to undermine the Castro regime, the best way would be to end the listing, including the embargo and travel ban, and flood Cuba with American visitors, as well as our products and democratic ideas. Ending the restrictions would also demonstrably help the Cuban people — a stated aim of these same politicians. 

In comparison, most Vietnamese-Americans — who also lost a civil war to communists, 16 years after the Cubans — long ago accepted reality and supported the 1994 normalization of relations with Vietnam. The U.S. buried the hatchet and engaged a country whose human rights record, like Cuba’s — and China’s — has been disappointing, and with whom we were actually involved in a war that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans. 

So why not Cuba? 

The fact that members of the Basque separatist group ETA have retired to the island with the blessing of the Spanish government, that FARC members are residing in Cuba during peace talks hosted by Havana and supported by the Colombian government and that various fugitives from American justice — none of whom have been accused of terrorism, by the way — have lived in exile there since the 1970s, are simply not credible arguments for maintaining the designation.

Frankly, it’s well past time that U.S. policymakers had the courage to tell the most vocal Miami exiles to acknowledge reality and move on, as many of them already have. Fortunately, the younger generation of Cubans in Miami isn’t as obsessed with the island as their forebears — and Cubans are no longer a majority of the Latin American population in South Florida.   

President Obama won Florida twice, and is in a unique position to remove Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and push Congress to end the embargo in his second term. As Cuba continues its sporadic offshore oil exploration with foreign partners, including U.S. allies, it would seem advantageous for it to be a part of the process, in order to help ensure there will not be another disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, not to mention the economic benefits it would receive from increased exports to the island. The only way to do so is to take Cuba off the terrorism list.

The Castros have used the listing and embargo as excuses for their economic mismanagement and the dismal plight of ordinary Cubans for decades. The last time momentum existed in the U.S. Congress towards lifting it, the Cuban government shot down two small planes flown by the exile group “Brothers to the Rescue” that allegedly violated their airspace, ensuring the embargo and listing would continue. 

I am well aware of the poor human rights record of the regime and am not an apologist for it. The incarceration of Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor who brought communications gear into Cuba, contrary to Cuban law, is regrettable, but should not hold U.S.-Cuban relations hostage. Nevertheless, it’s time for a new approach, as the current anachronistic policy has failed miserably for more than a half century.


Ryan is a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service who previously worked on Capitol Hill. Recently having returned after 14 years away, he has a degree in International Studies from Johns Hopkins and is currently consulting in D.C. on issues that have nothing to do with Cuba, the embargo, or potential business interests there.


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Terror in Miami/Terror en Miami

In CAFE, Miami/Cuba on April 26, 2013 at 1:53 pm


Version en Español abajo.

This coming April 27, 2013, will mark the one year anniversary of the domestic terrorist attack on my offices in coral gables , fl. Three incendiary devices where put inside my office in the pre dawn hours of the morning. The effects where total destruction, everything was reduced to ashes. As I watched the terrorist act in Boston  I could not help but find similarities and differences comparing it to my office fire bombing. Let me be clear, I am in no way comparing both acts as the one in Boston was of much more significance and destruction, to the people, city and our country.

Here is what I learned. Both bombings, boston and my office, where carried out because of hate. I was lucky, that no one died at my office, although the potential was there, as one blog put it, “ too bad she was not inside the office”, or the other tenants of the building who could have been working late, or just someone who works the night shift, walking their dog. In the case of Boston, there was immediate condemnation from the city , state , and federal officials and a determination to catch these terrorist. In my case, to this day, not one elected official, and in particular, james cason, mayor of coral gables , has ever come out to denounce this act of terrorism. I also learned that the FBI has the technology to take grainy photographs and make them cristal clear, yes, there is a grany photograph of a vehicle of intrest in my case, but no FBI technology has every released the CLEAR PICTURE. I, like Boston  had many people come rally to help me and support me, after all my crime was, doing legal travel to Cuba  and in particular the pilgrimage for His Holyness Benedecit VI´s visit to Cuba  The Spanish radio stations where receiving calls celebrating this act, not much different than the Jihadist celebrating in the middle east the bombing of BOSTON. As we all know , ones mans terrorist is another mans hero. I wish

I could say my case is isolated. It is not, there are many cases of these types of bombing in south Florida even some that have resulted in death and maiming people. Just cause they dare to think differently on Cuba  and how we should approach democracy in Cuba  Gee, I thought we lived in a democratic nation that encourages free thinking. Here in South Florida  you can loose your life for this. Imagine that. Most of the country would not even believe this has been going on in South Florida  yes, part of the united states of America.

As I watched Yoani Sanchez visit here, I wondered if they told her about these unsolved crimes, or if they told her how at some point people in south Florida would loose their jobs if their employer found out they traveled to Cuba  Or how we too have in south Florida “actos de repudio” calling you communist , just cause you believe in peaceful solutions. Solutions that would help the u.s. and the Cuban people. So, here it is , a year later, no news, no arrest, no suspects.

I , born in Brooklyn, with an enormous love and pride for my country, was convinced that this time, they would be caught. I was wrong. It just is not politically correct in South Florida to call these terrorist what they are, TERRORIST. They are called , freedom fighters. I just wonder, whose freedom?

Vivian Mannerud Verble

Airline Brokers Co.


El próximo 27 de abril 2013, se cumplirá el primer aniversario del ataque terrorista doméstico en mis oficinas en Coral Gables, FL. Tres dispositivos inciendiarios fueron puestos dentro de mi oficina en horas previas al amanecer de esa mañana. Los efectos fueron la destrucción total, todo se redujo a cenizas. Mientras observaba el acto terrorst en Boston, no podía dejar de ver similitudes y diferencias, comparando a las bombas incendiarias que pusieron en mi oficina.  Quiero dejar claro una cosa,  de ninguna manera quiero comparar la magnitud de lo ocurrido conmigo  con lo que pasó la semana pasada en la ciudad  de Boston. Aquello fue de mucho mayor impacto y la  destrucción, las perdidas humans, y el terror en esa ciudad y en el pais entero no comparan. Pero el terrorismo es TERRORISMO donde quiera y como quiera que ocurra.

Pero he aprendido algo. Ambos atentados, Boston y mi oficina, fueron actos de odio. Tuve la suerte de que nadie muriera en mi oficina, aunque el potencial estaba allí, como dijeran en un blog:  “Lástima que ella no estaba dentro de la oficina.  Pudo haber  otros inquilinos del edificio que podrían haber estado trabajando tarde o sólo alguien que trabaja en el turno de noche, caminando a su perro. En el caso de Boston, hubo condena inmediata de la ciudad, estatales y federales y la determinación de capturar a estos terroristas. En mi caso, hasta la fecha, ni un funcionario electo, y, en particular, James Cason, el alcalde de Coral Gables, jamás ha salido a denunciar este acto de terrorismo. También he aprendido que el FBI tiene la tecnología para tomar fotografías granuladas y hacerlos cristal claro, sí, hay una fotografía grany de un vehículo de intrest en mi caso, pero esta techonologia de el FBI no se a utilizado o dado a conocer en mi cas.. Yo, al igual que Boston, había muchas personas que vinieron a manifestar ayudarme y apoyarme, después de todo mi crimen fue, haciendo viajes legales a Cuba, y en particular de la peregrinación de la visita de el papa benedicto a Cuba. Las estaciones de radio en español en recibir llamadas celebración de este acto, no es muy diferente que el yihadista celebrando en el Oriente Medio el bombardeo de BOSTON. Como todos sabemos, los terroristas de algunos hombres, son los heroes de otros. Me gustaría poder decir que mi caso es aislado. pero no lo es., hay muchos casos de este tipo de bombardeo en el sur de la florida, incluso algunos que han resultado en la muerte y la gente mutilaciones. Simplemente porque ellos se atreven a pensar de forma diferente sobre Cuba, y la forma en que deben acercarse a la democracia en Cuba. Vaya, pensé que vivíamos en una nación democrática que fomenta el libre pensamiento. Aquí en el sur de la Florida, usted puede perder su vida por esto. Imagínese eso. La mayor parte del país, ni siquiera creería que esto ha estado sucediendo en el sur de la florida, sí, parte de los Estados Unidos de América.

Mientras miraba a Yoani Sánchez visita aquí, me preguntaba si le dijeron sobre estos crímenes sin resolver, o si le dijeron cómo en algún momento la gente del sur de Florida perdería su trabajo si su empleador se enteró que viajaron a Cuba. O cómo nosotros también tenemos en el sur de la Florida “actos de repudio” llamando comunista, simplemente por pensar en soluciones pacíficas. Las soluciones que ayuden a los EE.UU. y el pueblo cubano. Así que, aquí está, un año después, sin noticias, sin detención, ningún sospechoso. yo, nacida en Brooklyn, con un amor enorme y orgullo para mi país, estaba convencido de que esta vez, sería atrapado.

Yo estaba equivocada. Simplemente no es políticamente correcto en el sur de la florida llamar a estos terroristas lo que son, terroristas. Se les llama, luchadores por la libertad. Me pregunto, libertad de quien y para quien?

Vivian Mannerud Verble

Airline Brokers Co.

It’s not always greener

In Cuba, Cuba/US, Politics, US on January 16, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

The most dramatic and necessary of all the changes brought about during the Presidency of Raul Castro, is finally here. Cubans are allowed to exit the country freely, no longer requiring the devilish “exit visa”.

When one factors in the reasons why this is an all around positive move we find that the aspect that tops the list,  contrary to popular belief,  is the reality that of all of those Cubans who will be making trips abroad, most of them, will be coming back home.

Cuba was never really a jail as some have spent years and endless amounts of paper and ink claiming. It was an island that under extremely difficult circumstances was trying to survive, and still is. Still, that said, the concept of having to solicit a formal authorization in order to leave the country was something that after decades, began to weaken much of what the country had been striving to achieve: complete social justice. Cubans on the island simply couldn’t comprehend why they were obliged to go and request the government to allow them to exit the country and then return. Herein lies the gist of the issue, Cubans will not only be allowed to exit, they will also be allowed to remain abroad (this time restraint still needs tweaking) for a maximum of 24 months, and they will be allowed to return home. No longer will  there be the anguish of having to decide between “here” and “there”.

The issue now will be entry visas from the countries where the Cubans will wish to travel to. Not just the United States. Canada, Spain, Mexico and others will be nations where Cubans will swarm the consulates in Havana requesting the right to enter. And not only will it be Cubans who will need to understand the concept and the aspects that regulate world travel, some bloggers out there will also have to take a crash course as I read in one piece.

“A visa is still needed to enter almost any country Cubans wish to visit. There is a short list of countries that the government will allow its citizens to travel to visa free: Malaysia, Hungary, Russia, Liechtenstein, Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Cristobal and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Moldova, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

The author of this blog post either has a problem with the English language and mixed up the subject of the sentence, or seriously needs to learn a bit more about international travel laws before writing. The Cuban government, whether it wants to or not, has NO LEGAL RIGHT to tell another government that Cuban citizens may travel there “visa free”.  The above mentioned nations may have established a covenant with Cuba (not that I am aware of) which allows Cubans with a valid passport to travel to their nations visa free, but by no means is that ever a decision made by the Cuban Government.

There is another issue which involves the United States specifically. In the past, Cubans wanting to travel to the US were subject to a series of restrictions one of which, of course, was the exit permit, letter of invitation and other paperwork. Now on the Cuban side, all of this has been limited to a valid passport, an airplane ticket and of course a visa issued from the US enabling the individual to travel and enter the country.

Below,  another post, interviewing individuals in Cuba, pretty much sums up the current and future situation:

“I would like to travel and be with my family,” said Maria Eugenia Jimenez, who was seeing off her sister who lives in Miami. “They (the US) turned me down for a visa because I could be a possible immigrant… Now the problem is with the other countries, not with Cuba.”

In the end, the ability to travel abroad and return home will give Cubans the chance to see for themselves what lies across the waters that surround them. They will see for themselves. When they return, they will be able to better understand what is good about the island and what are the aspects within the society and the government that could use valid change. Keep in mind, for 50+ years, the US has been the “forbidden fruit” for most Cubans. They have idolized it through family members living there and friends who left. By and large the years of propaganda stemming from the different programs oriented to disrupt the Cuban revolution have painted the perfect picture of a pristine gold rushing US society where everything is to be had if you have the desire and the will.  Even if you step away from the US as an issue and ask any Cuban on the street they will have a completely distorted concept of what life is like outside of their little enclosed island. Now they will have the chance to see for themselves, and it will be a wakeup call to say the least.

If the political, diplomatic, and economic situation between Cuba and the US were to be resolved, many of these same Cubans could establish a back and forth bridge between both countries, where not only Cuba but the US could benefit.  Meanwhile you have the US embargo still in place, you also have the Cuban Adjustment Act and you have the travel restrictions against normal everyday US citizens,  regarding travel to Cuba. All of this will have to change sooner rather than later. The grass is always greener where you water it; both sides of the fence need a serious sprinkler and Cuba just opened the spout.

The Cuban 5: What General Clapper said

In ACLU, Blockade, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, US on October 6, 2012 at 9:04 am

By Cheryl LaBash


A modest three-minute video posted at the deserves more attention than the 3,096 or so views it had as of Sept. 29. Although the title, “The Cuban 5 with Danny Glover and Peter Coyote,” attracts those interested in the latest work of these well-known progressive actors, and the growing community aware of the massive injustice done to the Cuban 5, the real star of the video is a name far less known to the general public: Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr.

Clapper was a witness in the 2001 Cuban 5 trial in Miami that lasted more than six months. At the time of the trial, Clapper was director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (2001-2006). Clapper is not merely a retired high-ranking U.S. military officer, he is currently the director of national intelligence.

According to, “The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) serves as the head of the Intelligence Community (IC), overseeing and directing the implementation of the National Intelligence Program (budget) and acting as the principal advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters related to the national security. Working together with the Principal Deputy DNI (PDDNI), the Office of the DNI’s goal is to effectively integrate foreign, military and domestic intelligence in defense of the homeland and of United States interests abroad.”

In the video, Glover and Coyote re-enact Clapper’s answers to some very interesting questions presented by Cuban 5 defense attorneys, both taken from the actual trial transcripts. What did Clapper say?

‘Cuba does not represent a threat’

Q: “General Clapper, would you agree on saying that having access to public information is not an act of espionage?” asked Gerardo Hernández’s attorney.

A: “Yes.”

Q: “Would you, with your experience in intelligence matters, describe Cuba as a military threat to the United States?”

A: “Absolutely not. Cuba does not represent a threat.”

Q: “Did you find any evidence that Gerardo Hernández was trying to obtain secret information?”

A: “No, not that I recognized.”

Q: “Did you, General Clapper, come across any secret national defense information that was transmitted to Cuba by Gerardo Hernández or the other defendants?”

A: “Not that I remember, no.”

This lifelong military intelligence officer knows what happened in the trial of the Cuban 5. He was there. He was appointed as DNI by President Barack Obama in 2010.

The Cuban 5 — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González — are beginning their 15th year of unjust imprisonment in the U.S. The five men, unregistered agents of the Cuban government, infiltrated paramilitary organizations in south Florida during the 1990s to prevent a wave of more hotel bombings and other terror acts against tourists and other civilians in Cuba. They are the focus of a growing international and U.S. campaign calling for their release from prison and repatriation to Cuba.

Their trial, subsequent conspiracy convictions and the unspeakably long sentences — as much as double life plus 15 years for Gerardo Hernández — took place in Miami in a hostile atmosphere stoked by an inflammatory print and television campaign by U.S. government-paid propagandists who presented themselves as journalists.

It is past time to free the Cuban 5.

Paul Ryan’s Cuban Conversion

In Alan Gross, Blockade, CAFE, Cuban Americans, US on September 27, 2012 at 12:46 pm

By Douglas Bloomfield 

Originally posted in The Jewish Week

In politics, where you sit often determines where you stand.

Up north in Wisconsin’s largely rural First Congressional District, Rep. Paul Ryan told his constituents it was time to end the trade embargo on Cuba. “If we think engagement works well with China, well, it ought to work well with Cuba. The embargo doesn’t work. It is a failed policy.” As for those who wanted to tighten the embargo, not ease it, “I just don’t agree with them and never have.”

That was then, this is now.

Down south in Florida this weekend he recanted and said he’d had an epiphany.  What changed his mind?  He’s now running for vice president and campaigning in the rabidly anti-Castro Cuban-American areas of south Florida, critical to  Republican hopes of winning that battleground state.

Like Mitt Romney’s 180 turns on abortion, health care, guns and so many other issues, he attributes the shift to an evolution in his thinking, but the reality is both are just tailoring their views to appease extremists in their party.

Ryan said he changed his mind from what he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel a decade ago as a result of his “friendships” with some of Florida’s leading anti-Castro Republicans.  Thanks to them, he said, he now knows “just how brutal the Castro regime is.”  No explanation where he’s been for the past 50 years.

And what about Ryan’s old views on Cuba?  Not only has he renounced them but has assigned them to Barack Obama and labeled them “appeasement.”  Actually, the Obama administration has consistently renewed the trade embargo that Ryan once opposed and now supports, but what apparently Ryan and his friends see as appeasement is the easing of restrictions on family visits and cultural exchanges and rules that make it easier to send money to loved ones in Cuba.

This financial help from visitors and families abroad enables Cubans to purchase luxuries like soap and razors not included on their ration cards.

On my visit to Cuba earlier this year on a Jewish Heritage mission, many Jewish leaders I met with expressed fear that such exchanges, which have been so important in supporting the country’s small and often poor Jewish community, would be cut off by a Romney administration.

They rely on American visitors bringing suitcases filled with such “contraband” as pencils, paper, crayons and toys for children, clothing, vitamins, medicine, books, Judaica and cash contributions.

I saw firsthand how people-to-people exchanges were diminishing anti-American feelings.  A frequent visitor told me that signs around Havana that once blazed revolutionary slogans are now promoting tourism.

Reverting to the old Bush-era restrictions, as Romney and Ryan want, would not harm the Castro regime but would set back the progress being made by current cultural exchanges and would be harmful to the country’s small Jewish community.

Open Letter to Republican and Democratic National Committees / Carta Abierta a los Comités Republicano y Demócrata

In CAFE, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban Americans, Cuban Embargo, Politics, US on August 24, 2012 at 11:32 am


To the Republican and Democratic National Committees:

In light of both the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions we, as Cuban Americans and American citizens, urge both parties to not fall into the trap of viewing our community as a monolithic voting bloc that is in favor of the United States’ embargo on Cuba.  During these conventions the platforms for each party will be decided upon and put into action. For the past fifty years, a strategy of blind support for the embargo has become the norm for political candidates from both parties in order to garner the support of Cuban Americans. We would implore all candidates to not look upon our demographics as one that unanimously supports this failed policy of hostility. Rather, we are a diverse body of voices with a majority that favors a policy of engagement, and ultimately, normalization of relations between the two nations.

Numerous polls of the Cuban American community in southern Florida and throughout the nation demonstrate that a majority of these citizens favor the policies that the Obama administration put in place in 2009 and then expanded in 2011.  These moves have eased the process of reunification of Cuban families by allowing Cuban Americans to travel to Cuba more frequently and send more remittances to loved ones on the island. Overwhelmingly, Cuban Americans have voted with their feet and pocketbooks by traveling to Cuba, sending money, and acting as ambassadors for our great nation.  As Cuban Americans we feel that we are not any better than any other American citizen and would hope that the U.S. government takes steps to eliminate the travel ban placed on all American citizens.

We ask Mitt Romney, the presumptive candidate, and the Republican Party to abandon the Cold War rhetoric. Easing the embargo is not an act of “appeasement”.  It is our hope that Paul Ryan will remain consistent to his well-documented stance against the embargo. We urge all candidates to consider the vast support among congressional Republicans who represent the Midwest and many other districts across the country to end the embargo in order to open up a potentially dynamic market for agricultural and other manufactured goods made in the USA.

True conservatives cannot defend our policy towards Cuba. The travel restrictions violate American citizens’ individual right to travel. Also, our government’s stance towards Cuba is an absolute contradiction to free market capitalism. Furthermore, it is our hope that the GOP will understand the historic ties that Tampa, the host city of their national convention, has with Cuba. The majority of the Cuban American community there favors normalization of relations with Cuba. We reject any attribution of Cuban American congressional members of the Republican Party from southern Florida such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Marco Rubio, David Rivera, and Mario Diaz-Balart to speak on behalf of Cuban Americans as a whole within the state, let alone throughout the nation.

The inclusion of Cuba on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism is counterproductive. This designation undermines American national security because it eliminates the possibility of working in concert with Cuban leaders on important matters of regional security.  Our policy towards Cuba is also looked upon with derision by most of our allies in Latin America and this also compromises our position of influence in the hemisphere. Finally, the embargo effectively denies the very real potential of sustained gains in various sectors of the economy that would result from the opening of a very close market that yearns for American goods and services.

President Obama and his administration are well aware of these circumstances and have encountered opposition from our partners in the western hemisphere regarding such policies. We welcome a proactive response to deal with these challenges.  Regardless of the outcome of the elections in November we would hope that liberals and progressives within the Democratic Party continue to work to bring about a relationship that is more beneficial for both the Cuban people and the American populace.

In closing, we reiterate to all political candidates of both Republican and Democratic parties that Cuban Americans represent a plurality of views pertaining to U.S.-Cuba relations. Any posture by any politician that insinuates that we are all in favor of the embargo is misleading.  It is our desire that the members of the American political class resist the urge to repeat the same tired lines about Cuba and the embargo from past campaigns.  Such an attempt to pander to a community whose grasp of the issue of U.S.-Cuba relations is quite sophisticated and nuanced could cause negative results at the ballot box.


Members of the Board of Directors of CAFE (Cuban Americans for Engagement) and from the Executive Committee of FORNORM

Dr. Maria Isabel Alfonso, New York, NY. CAFE

Dr. Romy Aranguiz, Worcester, MA. CAFE

Dr. Eduardo Araujo, Boulder, CO. CAFE

Alejandro Barreras, Miami, FLA. CAFE

Isidro Borja, Miami, FLA. former President of FORNORM

Ernesto Cabo, Alexandria, VA. CAFE

Amaury Cruz, Miami, FLA. Vice President of FORNORM

Elena Freyre,  Miami, FLA. President of FORNORM

Arturo Lopez-Levy, Denver, CO. CAFE

Andres Ruiz, Worcester, MA. CAFE

Dr. Julio Ruiz, Miami, FLA. Secretary of FORNORM

Benjamin Willis, New York, NY. CAFE

Antonio Zamora, Miami, FLA. former President of FORNORM


Contact: Benjamin Willis

(786) 529-5123



A los Comités Republicanos y Demócratas:

En el marco de las próximas convenciones Demócrata y Republicana, nosotros, ciudadanos cubano-americanos y americanos, urgimos a ambos partidos a no caer en la trampa de ver a nuestra comunidad como un todo monolítico en favor del embargo de Estados Unidos a Cuba. Durante estas convenciones, serán analizadas y puestas en acción las plataformas de cada partido. Por los últimos 50 años, la norma seguida por los candidatos de ambos partidos ha estado trazada por una estrategia de apoyo ciego al embargo, con el objetivo de obtener apoyo de ciertos cubano-americanos. Rogamos a todos los candidatos que no nos vean como un todo que unánimemente suscribe esta fallida política  de hostilidad. Que vean que, por el contrario, somos un conglomerado de voces que en su mayoría, favorece una política de intercambio y normalización de las relaciones entre ambas naciones.

Numerosas encuestas dentro de la comunidad cubano-americana del Sur de la Florida y en toda la nación, demuestran que la mayoría de estos ciudadanos apoya las medidas implementadas por Obama en el 2009, extendidas al 2011. Las mismas, han facilitado el proceso de reunificación de las familias cubanas. De forma abrumadora, los cubanos han correspondido, viajando a Cuba, enviando dinero, y actuando como embajadores de nuestra gran nación. Como cubano-americanos, sentimos que no somos mejores que ningún otro ciudadano norteamericano y esperamos que el gobierno de los Estados Unidos tome pasos hacia la eliminación de la prohibición de viajar, haciéndola extensiva a todos los norteamericanos.

Pedimos a Mitt Romney y al Partido Republicano, que abandonen la retórica de Guerra Fría hacia Cuba. Disminuir algunas de las restricciones del embargo no es un acto de “apaciguamiento”. Esperamos que Paul Ryan sea consistente con sus públicamente conocidas proyecciones en contra del embargo. Urgimos a todos los candidatos a que consideren el vasto apoyo de los congresistas republicanos del Midwest de los EEUU, y de muchos otros distritos del país, a poner fin al embargo y a iniciar una potencial dinámica de mercadeo agrícola y de otros bienes manufacturados en los EEUU.

Un verdadero conservador no puede defender nuestra política hacia Cuba. Las restricciones de viaje violan los derechos individuales de viaje de los norteamericanos. También la posición de nuestro gobierno contradice las bases del capitalismo y del libre comercio.

Esperamos que el Partido Republicano sepa ver los lazos históricos que Tampa, la ciudad anfitriona de su Convención, tiene con Cuba.  La mayoría de la comunidad cubano-americana allí favorece la normalización de las relaciones. Rechazamos cualquier atribución de los congresistas cubano-americanos del Sur de la Florida, como Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Marco Rubio, David Rivera, y Mario Diaz-Balart, a hablar en nombre  de la comunidad cubano-americana como un todo. Menos, aún, en nombre de todos los que vivimos en otros estados de la nación.

La inclusión de Cuba en la lista de países terroristas es contraproducente. Tal designación, socava la seguridad nacional norteamericana, puesto que elimina la posibilidad de trabajar con Cuba en importantes renglones de seguridad regional. Nuestra política hacia Cuba está también en pugna con la de nuestros aliados de América Latina, lo cual compromete nuestra posición de influencia en el hemisferio.

El presidente Obama y su administración están al tanto de las circunstancias que han encontrado oposición por parte de nuestros aliados regionales del hemisferio occidental. Esperamos una respuesta proactiva a estos retos. Más allá de los resultados de las elecciones de noviembre, esperamos que liberales y progresistas dentro del Partido Demócrata continúen trabajando en aras de un mejoramiento en las relaciones Cuba-EE.UU.,  la cual beneficiaría tanto a la población cubana como a la norteamericana.

En resumen, reiteramos a todos los candidatos de los partidos Republicano y Demócrata, que los cubano-americanos encarnamos una pluralidad de puntos de vista en cuanto al tema de las relaciones Cuba-EE.UU. Cualquier postura ostentada por cualquier político, que insinúe que todos estamos a favor del embargo, está basada en falsos presupuestos. Esperamos que los miembros de la clase política resistan la presión de repetir el mismo estribillo sobre Cuba y el embargo, de las campañas presidenciales anteriores. Tal intento de paternalismo hacia una comunidad cuya visión de las relaciones Cuba-EE.UU. es sofisticada y llena de matices, pudiera traer resultados negativos en las urnas electorales.


Miembros del Comité Ejecutivo de CAFE (Cuban Americans for Engagement) y del Comité Ejecutivo de FORNORM (Foundation for the Normalization of the US-Cuba Relations).

Dr. Maria Isabel Alfonso, New York, NY. CAFE

Dr. Romy Aranguiz, Worcester, MA. CAFE

Dr. Eduardo Araujo, Boulder, CO. CAFE

Alejandro Barreras, Miami, FLA. CAFE

Isidro Borja, Miami, FLA. former President of FORNORM

Ernesto Cabo, Alexandria, VA. CAFE

Amaury Cruz, Miami, FLA. Vice President of FORNORM

Elena Freyre,  Miami, FLA. President of FORNORM

Arturo Lopez-Levy, Denver, CO. CAFE

Andres Ruiz, Worcester, MA. CAFE

Dr. Julio Ruiz, Miami, FLA. Secretary of FORNORM

Benjamin Willis, New York, NY. CAFE

Antonio Zamora, Miami, FLA. former President of FORNORM

Contacto: Benjamin Willis


Cuba and Fidel Castro: Beyond his 86th Birthday.

In CAFE, CENESEX, Cuba, Cuba/US, Fidel Castro Ruz, LGBT, Miami/Cuba, Politics, US on August 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm
By Arturo Lopez-Levy 
Originally published in The Havana Note
Regardless of how long he lives, Fidel Castro has had an influential role in shaping the political discourse in Cuba. Fidel skillfully mixed Marxism and nationalism and made a revolution that changed the history not only of Cuba but also of the whole Western hemisphere. He was the most popular leader in a generation of Cubans, a political giant who reached world dimensions during the Cold War. As professor Jorge Dominguez from Harvard University said, If there  had been competitive elections in the early 1960’s, Castro could have won them all. He didn’t have the chance. In the most difficult moments of the Cold War, the United States, as the hegemonic power in the Americas, didn’t have tolerance for a nationalist leader who aspired to an independent neutralist course not to mention a socialist one, no matter how popular Castro was among his people.
On the other hand, Castro was not a misunderstood liberal democrat, but a realist politician with strong nationalist and socialist ideas ready to remain in power and implement his revolutionary program by democratic or undemocratic means.  He learned from the experience of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and fought the Cuban Civil War of the 1960’s with every conceivable alliance and political weapon  available to him. Political opponents of Castro’s program were treated as enemies of the nation, they suffered financial and property losses, harassment and long prison sentences. Fidel created a new Communist party under his nationalist authoritarian leadership and remained in power for almost five decades. In 2006, he retired undefeated. No leader in Cuba could speak; bring enthusiasm to his followers, and plant fear in his enemies as Fidel Castro did. His charisma was no doubt an important source of the communist party’s legitimacy but he also attracted many Cubans due to his writings, ideas and speeches.
In analyzing how Cuba moved forward after the revolution a completely Fidel centered approach was always insufficient because it is impossible to trace how much of Fidel’s policies were the result of his own views and how much his campaigns were the result of influences by different interests within Cuba’s power structure. But when Fidel was committed to a policy, he was the minimal winning coalition. Politics at the strategic government level consisted of guessing what could help Fidel’s grand strategy. This limited the feedback on policy and the information flows of the system.
Fidel’s style hardly ever consisted of leading from behind. That is why the “Fidel in command” model truly ended when he fell ill in 2006.   Fidel is no longer the decisive force in the political survival of the PCC rule. In part by design and in part by default, the institutionalization of the party rule and the economic reforms proposed in the “Lineamientos Economicos y Sociales” (Social and Economic Guidelines) of the PCC imply a partial withdrawal of the communist state from social spaces and the economy. Fidel’s charisma and leadership style were cardinal obstacles for these two long overdue processes. The supreme leader of the revolution deployed a striking anti market bias all throughout his career.
Fidel was not only the main creator of institutions in post-revolutionary Cuba but also the charismatic leader who reduced their importance at his pleasure, sometimes unconsciously. In his statements, Fidel Castro  was a constant advocate for “democratic centralism” and “collective leadership”, not for cult of personality, but in practice, his charisma and political dominance prevented the institutionalization of a legal-rational bureaucratic rule. The government was wherever he was; its priorities were his priorities. The recently approved term limits were unthinkable under his aegis.
Now, there is a new situation. Raúl Castro’s commitment to economic reforms and institutionalization is opening venues for the discussion of new ideas within the power structure and the general political discourse. Propositions in favor of a gradual expansion of the role of the market in the economy, the diversification of the property structure, and the expansion of the role of law and rules in how government and the party work are openly discussed. This is not part of a transition to a multiparty democracy but embodies the relaxation of information controls; it improves the feedback mechanisms and the expression of pluralistic interests within the Cuban elites and society. Public discourse is breaking away from the homogenous path of previous times, not only in the publications of the Catholic Church or reform oriented magazines such as Temas, but also in the core publications of the system. Newspapers and radios on the provinces, and even Granma, the Communist party newspaper, are talking about the need for separating the party from the government, and economic changes.
One ideological factor that is emerging in post-Fidel Cuba is an increased emphasis in a nationalist narrative. During Fidel Castro’s leadership, particularly before 1989, the PCC promoted Marxist ideas, and a feeling of belonging to the international communist bloc. Internationalism, not nationalism, was the central ideological principle of Cuba’s foreign policy. Raúl Castro’s recent speech in Guantanamo on July 26 demonstrated how this feature is changing. The emphasis on the revolution as a solution to a history of national humiliation is becoming predominant and issues such as national unity, economic growth and public order are emerging more forcefully in the official discourse. The struggle against the U.S. embargo is becoming again the strongest unifying ideological factor in the elite and between the PCC and the population.
When Fidel’s health forced him to step down , the community of Cubans in Miami Florida reserved the Orange Bowl for the anticipated celebration of his death.  In other parts of the world, such as the Southern Cone of Africa where Cuban troops were key allies in the struggle against Apartheid, there was sorrow. What would happen in Cuba when Fidel Castro dies? A funeral.   Fidel Castro’s death will speed up the processes of economic reform and institutionalization but it is important not to exaggerate his current impact in Cuba’s policymaking. He is a retired head of State.
Fidel Castro is not Cuba. Rather than focusing on an 86 years old revolutionary patriarch, the international community, particularly the United States, should look at the general trends operating in Cuba’s politics and economy. A central question is whether Raul Castro’s economic reform can alter the political dynamics and the distribution of power not only in Cuba but on the Cuban American community and U.S. debate about the embargo.  Everything else being equal, a market oriented Cuban economy, with a vibrant non-state sector, would create a virtuous cycle of pressures to end the U.S. sanctions that would also strengthen the appetite for more economic opening in Cuba. It is also worth noting that the antipathy generated by Fidel among some segments of the American public and the Cuban American community is not transferable to any other leader, not even his brother Raúl.
That is the gift Fidel Castro has given all of us to contemplate on this, his 86th birthday.

Lets live and let live

In Alan Gross, Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, CAFE, Cuba, Cuban 5, Cuban Americans, History, Miami/Cuba, Politics, US on July 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Therein lies the beauty of reconciliation: the balance it creates…

By Alina M. Lopez Marin

Originally posted on CAFE (Cuban Americans For Engagement)

When my parents came to the states they realized that they would not be returning to Cuba again. They were very disillusioned by their forced exit from Cuba and with the exiles.  They knew very early on that they would not live to return to the island.  They were not resentful, as we did not lose any property or wealth. My mother was hurt by her inability to return to see her father before he died or after. My maternal grandmother came to the states in 1966 and moved to Miami shortly after living with my parents for a year.

While at the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus, I became a founding member of an offshoot of the Democratic Party. We campaigned against an incumbent and successfully installed the first Black congressman in Maryland, Parren Mitchell. Mitchell would openly say that he won his first election thanks to the white kids from Catonsville. He won by 35 votes. A few students at UMBC made a bit of history. Two of that group went on to win elected offices in Maryland.

Upon graduation from college I was recruited to apply for an investigator position with the federal government and became subject to the Hatch Act, a law that at that time prevented speech by civil servants related to political candidates. So I was apolitical till I left the federal government and went to work for the state of California in an appointed position in 1983. My naiveté regarding politics had a rude shock and I learned more about the ruthlessness of politics in 3 years than I had learned in all the years before during my life.

My mother died in 1985. I was not present when she died from cancer and her death took a toll on me. I fell into a depression, which kept me from working from 1986 till 1989. I returned to work for the state as a Deputy Labor Commissioner, and retired in 2000. At that time I left California for two years and returned to work for the federal government till my retirement in 2010.

My parents had taught me to stay away from the politics in Miami and throughout that time and I did not discuss politics while visiting relatives in Miami.

When I learned that my grandmother had fallen ill with cancer in the late 70s I spent a week with her and had a chance to talk to her about so many things. What I recalled the most was her surprising statement to me that she had regretted leaving Cuba. I had always admired my grandmother and her statement kept me wondering.

In 2008 I vacationed in Belize and on my return to Miami airport I flew over Cuba. I flew over Guanahacabibes, Pinar del Rio. The land called to me. There was no doubt that there was a special magnet that I felt while flying over my island of birth. Upon my return, right after the election of Barack Obama, I began to read everything that I could find about the current politics and life in the island.

I found out about the Cuban 5, about Alberto Coll: The Cuban 5 are 5 men who are Cuban agents who infiltrated the Brothers to Rescue group before its demise caused by Jose Basulto. Their purpose was to monitor exile activity to prevent acts of terrorism against the island. I learned about the actors of terrorism against the island, the Remolcador incident in Cuba. The shoot down of the Brothers to the Rescue, Helms Burton, Clintons politics toward Cuba, the politics surrounding the Elian Gonzalez incident, etc. Etc.

I felt so ashamed that I had not been paying attention to the mess created by a few. I felt ashamed that Alberto Coll had been so maligned and persecuted because he changed his mind about the effectiveness of the embargo. I felt ashamed that five men who truly cared about the welfare of Cubans had risked their lives to protect them and that all we did was shoot the messenger. All this took place while some people who are true mercenaries on both sides had done everything possible to hurt Cubans, just because they are not simpatico to their cause. I became aware of the sinister politics that has dominated the past 53 years and what an utter failure these politics had wreaked on all of us and most importantly on the 11000000 Cubans in the island.

My awareness deepened by my correspondence with Gerardo Hernandez, the head Avispa of the Cuban 5, who has a jail term of two lives and 15 years, a medieval sentence imposed out of fear and loathing, rather than true righteous indignation for a crime. Our correspondence has made me aware how little Cubans know of us, exiles and how little I knew of life in the island since I left. Gerardo thought that my mother must have been a terrorist. Imagine that.  Our ensuing friendship made clear to me that we need to communicate like normal caring folk rather than continue to allow the hate and vengeance that has been foisted upon us by the congressmen of South Florida and seconded by the congressmen of New Jersey who allege to represent the Cuban American community. They really do not represent us and all they do is give us a bad name in the United States and the rest of the world. Lets leave the generation of hate behind with our parent’s generations and that of the Castros.  We do not have to agree on everything to communicate. All we have to do is respect each other’s nations sovereignty, our right to think for ourselves and move on.

Lets travel, learn from one another; Lets live and let live.

Who Would Be Better for Cuba: Romney or Obama?

In Alan Gross, Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, Blockade, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Cuban Americans, Politics, US on July 13, 2012 at 10:26 am

By Anya Landau French

Originally published in The Havana Note

Few nations feel the fallout of a U.S election more than the island of Cuba, just ninety miles away, where millions have never known life without a U.S. bloqueo hanging over their heads.

During the height of the Cold War, bringing down the Castro government, which was closely allied to the Soviet Bloc, was a matter of national security. But after the Berlin Wall fell, Cuba no longer mattered. As long as Cuba wasn’t exporting revolution, serving as a hub for narco-traffickers, or gushing U.S.-bound rafter refugees, it no longer mattered whether U.S. policy objectives and tactics were realistic, effective or even in the national interest.

From President Reagan to President Obama and the various Republican contenders who sought to replace him (including presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney), Cuba is a pit stop on the Florida campaign trail, and little else. How else to explain Mitt Romney’s unfortunate “Patria o muerte, venceremos!” gaffe before a disgusted crowd of Cuban Americans during a 2007 campaign stop, when some careless campaign staffer must have thought it’d be great to throw in a beloved Cuban expression to win fans in electoral-vote rich South Florida, but instead just fanned the flames of insult to injury by arming Romney with that famous Fidel Castro sign-off. And of course, in the crucial election years of 2004 and 2006, President George W. Bush empaneled lofty commissions to plan every last detail of a Cuban transition to market democracy, and then update the plan, none of which has come to pass. And though President Obama promised a “new beginning” with Cuba early in his presidency, it’s amounted to not too much more than a new beginning with potential swing Cuban American voters keen on visiting their families in Cuba whenever they like. It was Barack Obama in 2004, by the way, who said in no uncertain terms that it was time for the U.S. to lift its embargo of Cuba.

(On the flopped ‘new beginning’ some will point to Cuba’s imprisonment of an American USAID subcontractor, Alan Gross, for more than two years as the end of the new beginning. And while I think the Cuban government could and should show clemency toward Gross – and now a critic on the other side will say the U.S. could and should show clemency toward the Cuban Five – one cannot ignore the reality that the Obama administration’s continuation and stubborn defense of USAID democracy programs beefed up under the Bush administration that snuck Americans onto the island without host country consent to break that country’s laws, whatever we might think of them, might have played a role, a big one, in all of this.)

Obama’s approach, precisely because it seeks to cater to a more moderate segment of Florida’s electoral pool, is less strident and more reasonable than that of his predecessor, who was instead maximizing the hard-line faithful. And yet, more reasonable doesn’t necessarily mean Cuba matters more to the current occupant of the White House any more than it did to the last. President Bush was willing to separate families, while President Obama seems oblivious to the historic changes in Cuba underway today, both because real events and impacts on the island aren’t the point. Domestic political advantage is.

Perhaps that is why this pointed commentary from the internationally acclaimed Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, reflecting on Obama’s pragmatism and reminding us that while Cuba may not matter to the U.S., U.S. elections always matter in Cuba, may not cause a much-needed course correction in a Romney or Obama White House come 2013.

“Those who see the Cuban situation as a pressure cooker that needs just a little more heat to explode feel defrauded by these “concessions” to Havana from the Democratic government. They are the same people who suggest that a hard line — belligerence on the diplomatic scene and economic suffocation — would deliver better results.

Sadly, however, the guinea pigs required to test the efficacy of such an experiment would be Cubans on the island, physically and socially wasting away until some point at which our civic consciousness would supposedly “wake up.” As if there are not enough historical examples to show that totalitarian regimes become stronger as their economic crises deepen and international opinion turns against them.

No wonder Mitt Romney is a much talked about figure in the official Cuban press. His strong confrontational positions feed the anti-imperialism discourse like fuel to a fire.”

Yoani Sanchez isn’t the first person to wade into this argument about whether the United States should continue to isolate and punish Cuba(ns) or to extend a hand, to achieve the results we seek. But she ought to be among the most influential here in the U.S., where she is heralded for her trademark withering wit, so often critical of her government. And yet, statements such as these from Sanchez, and many of the traditional dissident activists in Cuba who have long disagreed with U.S. interventionist policies nearly as much as they disagree with their own government, tend to be answered with a chorus of crickets among U.S. policymakers who claim they just want to free the Cuban people, apparently in spite of what they say would help.

One can only hope then that Sanchez is right, too, in her belief that increasingly, it matters little what the United States does in Cuba. “[W]hoever scores the electoral victory will find Cuba in a state of change. The reforms carried out by Raúl Castro lack the speed and depth most people desire, but are heading in the irreversible direction of economic opening. Havana is full of private cafés and restaurants, we can now buy and sell homes, and Cubans are even managing to sell the cars given to them during the era of Soviet subsidies in exchange for political loyalty. The timid changes driven by the General President are threatening to damage the fundamental pillars of Fidel Castro’s command.”

Now, if only someone could do something about the pillars holding up Calle Ocho’s grip on U.S. policy.

Castro on Democracy Now!

In Alan Gross, Blockade, CENESEX, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Cuban Embargo, Human Rights/Derechos Humanos, LGBT, Miami/Cuba, Politics on June 20, 2012 at 10:48 am

Mariela Castro Espín on Democracy Now! live at the firehouse in New York City


<pAMY GOODMAN: In a Democracy Now! special, we begin our show today with a rare U.S. interview with the daughter of the Cuban president, Raúl Castro, and First Lady Vilma Espín. Her name is Mariela Castro. She’s best known in Cuba for her ardent support of gay, lesbian and transgender rights and as the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana.

Mariela Castro was recently granted a visa for a rare trip to the United States. Democracy Now! had a chance to sit down with her last week at the Cuban consulate here in New York City. We talked not only about her work combating homophobia, but also her thoughts on the Cuban Five and what’s happening in Cuba 50 years after the start of the U.S. embargo. She called on the United States to release five Cubans jailed for spying on violent anti-Cuban militants in exchange for U.S. citizen Alan Gross, who was arrested in Cuba in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years on charges of subversion. She says, “Free the six.”

We turn now to my interview with Mariela Castro. I began by asking her about what brought her to the United States. Mariela Castro was translated by Elizabeth Coll.

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] I presented my work at the Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, which was held last week in San Francisco. I was also invited by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the work that you’re doing in Cuba.

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] I am the director of the National Center of Sexual Education. This is an academic center that is part of the Ministry of Public Health. Its mission is to coordinate the national program of sexual education with a multidisciplinary focus which coordinates different sectors.

AMY GOODMAN: Why have you chosen to make sexuality and the politics of sexuality your issue? You, yourself, are heterosexual. You’re married to a man. You have three children.

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] This is work that my mother began with the Federation of Cuban Women. She was the one who created CENESEX. Though professionally I worked with preschool children and adolescents, as I heard about the difficulties of LGBT people, I began to sympathize with their needs and problems. Many LGBT couples chose to come to counseling sessions with me, and as I listened to them, I started to study, to find tools to be able to help them.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve come to the United States at an interesting time. The president, President Obama, has just endorsed same-sex marriage, marriage equality. What are your thoughts about that?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] I think it’s very valuable that the president of the United States speaks out publicly in favor of the rights of same-sex couples. Being the most powerful country in the world, what the president says has great influence on the rest of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet we do not have across-the-board law that says that same-sex marriage is accepted. And in Cuba, you don’t, either. What are you doing in Cuba to change the laws?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] In Cuba, CENESEX is leading an educational strategy, with the support of the media, to promote respect for free and responsible sexual orientation and gender identity. We are also doing some advocacy with state institutions and civil society organizations, so that they support this educational strategy. Beyond the educational strategy and our media strategy, we are also promoting legislative initiatives that support the same rights for homosexuals and transgender people, so that, for example, the family code recognizes the rights of these people and also their possibilities as couples, the legalization of their union as a couple.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you pushing for same-sex marriage in Cuba?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] I am promoting marriage, but it was not accepted by many groups of people. And so, what we are negotiating is the legalization of consensual unions and that the legalization of these unions would guarantee, more than anything, their property rights, inheritance rights.

AMY GOODMAN: So, do same-sex couples have the same economic rights as heterosexual couples?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] All rights are guaranteed for all people. There is no exclusion for LGBT people. But where there is still not respect for their rights is around the guarantee that if one member of a same-sex couple dies, the survivor be recognized as the person who should receive the inheritance, or even just be allowed to enjoy the goods that they had enjoyed as a couple.

AMY GOODMAN: Presumably, you have your father’s ear, the president of Cuba. How does he feel about making it fully equal between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] He is convinced that it is necessary, that it is part of the project of full justice the Cuban Revolution proposes.

AMY GOODMAN: Is he supportive like you are?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] He has been supportive since before, from when my mother was working on these issues.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about gay men and lesbians in the military?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] In all of Cuban society, there are all kinds of people. In the army, as well, there are homosexuals and lesbians. They don’t manifest it publicly, but they are there.

AMY GOODMAN: If it is known, if they are open, would they be kicked out of the military?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] I see that the rules have become more flexible. Of course, before, they were more rigid. I think that in all Cuban society, the policy and laws are becoming more flexible. And the same will happen in the army.

AMY GOODMAN: We return to my conversation with Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro. I asked her about the Cuban Five, the five men convicted in 2001 for spying on violent anti-Castro militants in the United States.

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] As part of the Cuban population, I am committed to fighting for the liberation of the five Cubans, in this case, four Cubans who are imprisoned and one who is out on probation in Miami. And, really, they are serving very severe sentences that do not correspond with the evidence. There is no evidence for such severe sentences. If they had been tried justly, they would have already completed their sentences. And yet, they are still prisoners.

AMY GOODMAN: I dare say most Americans don’t even know who they are, why they’re in jail. Can you explain?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] It has been silenced because it is a kind of political vendetta. You know that Cuba, since the beginning of the revolution, has been the victim of terrorist attempts, organized and perpetrated by terrorist groups based in Miami of Cubans who have even confessed to be killers. They have confessed their crimes, even in books that have been published and in interviews on television. But they have not been brought to justice. However, Cuba has more than 5,000 victims of state terrorism between the dead and the wounded. Thus, as a society, as a sovereign nation, we have the right to defend ourselves, and we do it peacefully.

How? Infiltrating Cuban people who identify with the revolution, infiltrating them into these terrorist groups to alert the Cuban government as to when these terrorist attacks were going to take place, in order to be able to thwart the attempts and defend our population. These terrorist groups enjoy great economic and political power in Florida, and thus, judgments were made that violate the laws of the United States, and they were made in Miami by totally partial judges who oppose the process of the Cuban Revolution.

AMY GOODMAN: Would the Cuban government be open to a prisoner swap, the Cuban Five for Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned by the Cuban government?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] The Cuban government has expressed interest in finding a negotiated solution on humanitarian terms, and of course it is fully disposed to negotiate with the government of the United States. But it has not received any response.

AMY GOODMAN: Cuban-American Congress members in the United States have condemned the Obama administration for giving you a visa into the United States. Díaz-Balart, Congressman Díaz-Balart, said, “It is appalling that the Obama administration is welcoming high-level agents of the Castro dictatorship onto U.S. soil. While the Cuban people are struggling for basic freedoms in the face of increasingly brutal repression…”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says, “Mariela Castro is part of a ruthless dictatorship that has oppressed the Cuban people for more than half a century. She wants to spew [out] the lies and propaganda of her family’s failed regime and doesn’t want to answer questions from a free and independent media.”

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] I am not going to respond to the mediocre yellow press that she tries to impose on me, which for 50 years has spread lies about the Cuban Revolution. I also want to say about these Cuban congresspeople that you mentioned, everyone in the United States and Cuba knows that they promote laws that violate the rights of Americans to travel to Cuba, that violate the rights of the Cuban community and Cuban descendants in the United States, who are 1.8 million people, to travel freely to Cuba to reunite with their families. These people are constantly promoting legislation that worsens the economic blockade. And with the revolutionary government of these more than 50 years, the Cuban people have found freedom and full justice.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve been allowed into the United States under the Bush administration.

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] I entered in 2002 for another congress in Los Angeles.

AMY GOODMAN: What would a lifting of the U.S. embargo against Cuba mean for your country, Mariela Castro?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] In the first place, it would mean that the government of the United States would begin to respect international law. It would mean the beginning of the end of one of the worst human rights violations: that suffered by the Cuban people because of the blockade. For Cuba, it would mean access to development that has been limited by the blockade. And Americans and Cubans could meet in friendship, without the mediation of these unscrupulous congresspeople who manipulate the policy of the United States towards Cuba in service of their personal power and economic interests, and not in function of the necessities of the Cuban people both within Cuba and beyond.

AMY GOODMAN: Your father, President Castro, has been making a transition in Cuba. Can you talk about the changes that you think are most important for people in the United States to understand?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] One of the most important changes is that the new economic and social strategy has been designed with the full participation of all the Cuban population, who have participated in the debates, both to question the current reality as well as to propose what changes should be made.

AMY GOODMAN: There is a lot of discussion of a post-Castro Cuba. What do you think that would look like?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] The same—with the same strategy of socialist development, which is always looking for more efficient mechanisms to support social justice and national sovereignty, and also with new public figures, because there are many people participating in Cuba in all the decisions. So that would mean new faces for the media. But for Cubans, those faces would not be new.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you consider the presidency of Cuba?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] No. That job doesn’t interest me.


MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] I like my job.

AMY GOODMAN: There are other socialist governments in Latin America—Bolivia, Venezuela—where there are elections. Would Cuba go in that direction?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] I think Cuba has publicly expressed what the mechanisms of popular election will be, and what is being proposed is to perfect them, not repeat what others do.

AMY GOODMAN: What would it look like?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] Well, how we do it now is through mechanisms of popular election. It is the people who nominate their leaders. Term limits have been established, and the president, my father, is included in these term limits. This has been the result of a collective discussion, to give opportunities to others, so that they assume their responsibilities. And the mechanisms of control are being perfected so that the people have access to the control of the mechanisms of power.

AMY GOODMAN: How is the health of your uncle, Fidel Castro?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] I just want to add, in Cuba, we don’t have electoral campaigns, and the Communist Party doesn’t field candidates. And the leaders don’t receive an additional salary. And the legislators don’t receive an additional salary, because they are still doing their jobs. So positions of power in Cuba do not generate economic interests in people.

Fidel looks like he’s doing really well. He is an octogenarian, so he doesn’t have the same vitality that characterized him his whole life—that where there was a problem, Fidel was there with the people looking for solutions; that where there was a threat or danger, Fidel was right there in front of his people. Fidel is now giving us the privilege of his writing, of the writing of history. There are things that only he knows. And he is giving us a marvelous historical legacy that gives the Cuban people a spiritual strength that is priceless.

AMY GOODMAN: How did he manage to survive? I believe it’s more than 600 assassination attempts by the United States, at least hundreds. The CIA documents many of them.

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] I think it was three things. First, his charisma and his sense of justice convinced even his executioners. Above all, he was the leader of the Cuban people, he is the maximum leader of the Cuban people, and the people have always protected him. But he is also a third world leader. And in the countries that he visited where they organized the attempts, mostly organized by the CIA, these same populations protected him.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your assessment of President Obama?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] President Obama represents an imperialist government and policy. So if you were to say to me, “Do you prefer him? Would you like him as a president?” I would say I would prefer a president who responds to the interests of the American people, who protects the poor from the arbitrary actions of the rich, and that respects international law. I have a very personal impression that Obama is a person who tries to be just. But while occupying the position of the presidency of the United States, it is very difficult to be just. However, I am a person who always likes to think positively, and I would like to believe that Obama in a second term will be a better human being and a better president.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned issues of poverty and equality. What is your assessment of the Occupy movement in the United States?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] It’s very interesting to me how the American population has found new languages and forms of struggle, a new language of struggle to fight for their social demands. And they do it peacefully and with deep reasoning. I don’t think they are against the government. They are against the policies that violate their rights. And I feel admiration for the courage of these people.

AMY GOODMAN: What would you like to see most change about the United States?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] I want the Cuban Five to go back to Cuba and for Alan Gross to go home. I want an end to the financial, commercial and economic blockade that violates the human rights of the Cuban people, and the normalization of relations between both countries.

AMY GOODMAN: And what would you like to see most change about Cuba?

MARIELA CASTRO: [translated] In Cuba, I want to see the socialist system strengthened with mechanisms that are always more participatory and democratic, and that the sovereignty of Cuba always be respected.

AMY GOODMAN: Mariela Castro, daughter of the Cuban president, Raúl Castro. She is the most prominent champion of gay, lesbian and transgender rights in Cuba. She called on the United States to release the five Cubans imprisoned here in the U.S. They were spying on anti-Cuban militants in the U.S. In exchange, she says, Cuba should release Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen jailed in Cuba.